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07 May 2015

World's Strangest Festivals

Humans have always celebrated special events and traditions, with festivals held around the world to mark religious holidays and provide entertainment for the masses. With the advent of modernity, however, festivals have become homogeneous and over commercialised. If you're bored with the same old music and cultural festivals, maybe you should look outside the box at some of the stranger events on offer around the world. From ancient religious celebrations through to crazy modern innovations, there are more wacky festivals out there than ever before.

Running with the bulls in Spain is always an interesting way to spend your day, with this crazy spectacle taking place between July 6th and 14th every year as part of the Fiesta San Fermin. According to Spanish tradition, the true origin of this event began in north-eastern Spain during the early 14th century, when a group of youngsters jumped in the bullring to show off their bravado. Since the modern festival began in 1910, there have been 15 people killed and nearly 300 injured in this event, meaning this festival is not for the feint of heart. 

Also in Spain, the El Salto del Colacho or Baby Jumping Festival has been held in the Province of Burgos since 1621. During El Salto del Colacho, literally translated as the devil’s jump, men dressed as the devil jump over babies lying on mattresses in the street. While the origins of this strange tradition are unknown, the act of jumping over babies is said to cleanse the babies of original sin, guard them against evil spirits, and ensure them safe passage through life.Much like a dare-devil version of baptism by water, this quirky Spanish custom draws spectators from all over the world. 

On the other side of the spectrum, the Lantern Floating Festival in Hawaii is a much more gentle way to celebrate life. Held annually on Memorial Day on O'ahu’s south shore, this beautiful festival offers a personal and collective moment of remembrance, reflection, and gratitude for all those who have gone before. 

In a similar vein, simultaneous festivals in Thailand also celebrate the light, with thousands of people floating lanterns in the water in the Loi Krathong Festival in south-western Thailand and launching them to the sky in the northern Thai festival known as Yi Peng. 

The Shinto Kanamara Matsuri festival in Japan is definitely one of the more unique events of the world, with thousands of people, young and old, getting together each year to celebrate the penis. With decorations, carved vegetables, and a colourful parade complete with penis decorations, this festival is a major eye-opener for people with delicate western sensibilities. While the Kanamara Matsuri originates from a penis-venerating shrine once popular with prostitutes looking for protection against sexually transmitted diseases, modern revellers are more likely to be praying for things like business prosperity and marriage harmony. 

The Boryeong Mud Festival is another weird and wonderful event, held each year in Boryeong, South Korea. While this festival only started recently in 1998 as a marketing vehicle for Boryeong mud cosmetics, it now attracts more than 2.2 million visitors each year. Despite the ancient minerals found in the local mud, this festival is very much a modern celebration. With live music, a mud pool, mud slides, and mud skiing competitions, visitors have lots of opportunity to get dirty while they discover the medicinal qualities of the Boryeong mud.